In recent weeks, I have reached out to a dozen presidents/chancellors to get their take on the state of college football. All of them came from big-time academic-athletic institutions of higher learning. All but one thinks the current football climate has a financial grip on their campuses and that change is unlikely anytime soon. The one dissenter holds out some hope for a partial return to sanity.
No one referred to the once highly charged and publicized "arms race" in college athletics. No one. More than half of them believe the National Collegiate Athletic Association has been asked, for too long, to fend off an unruly mob with a switch, and that the environment has been raging for more than a decade.
The truth is, only a handful of major football programs actually make money (NCAA reports 22 made money in 2009-10). Meanwhile, the rest struggle to break even. Even with soaring television income from network and cable networks, greatly increased ticket prices, and mounting contributions from alumni and other contributors, big-time collegiate athletics remain a challenging and risky business.
Interestingly, students today line up deep to purchase college football tickets, while 10 and 15 years ago athletic directors feared a possible decline in student interest. It has become "the thing to do" on weekends; some athletic programs even offer beer sales to help offset mounting athletic expenses.
Let us not forget, marquee football coaches are paid millions of dollars a year -- many, many times over what is allotted outstanding faculty members and administrators.
"Our faculty members are entering a season of discontent as they learn about the enhanced salaries and bonuses being given football coaches at our universities, while they admit to facing another lean year for faculty salaries," one president declared. The others chimed in to support their colleague.
The facts are undisputable, as reported from recent salary studies:
According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010-11, the average salary for professors at doctoral-granting institutions was little more than $107,000, and according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, there were three public university presidents in 2011 who made more than $1.9 million annually, one who cleared a million, one who made nearly a million, and one who made $845,105.